Photos/text by Danny R. Phillips
I had stumbled upon the answer to solving the time travel conundrum and had decided to revisit my glory days (the 1990s) to see the legendary Husker Du/ Sugar front man Bob Mould in action. Okay, so I’m not friends with Professor Emmett Brown and I have zero understanding of theoretical physics so I did not technically travel through the expanses of time to see Bob Mould; it just felt that way.
I have walked through the doors of The Bottleneck in Lawrence, Kansas hundreds of times before but this night was different, more important. I had waited years to see Bob Mould, one of my heroes since a friend gave me a dubbed cassette of Husker Du’s Flip Your Wig in the eighth grade. I remember as soon as I pressed play, I was absolutely hooked. Aggression paired with melody, the musicianship, the lyrics, it was all there; now, in my 38th year, I would finally see the man whose music influenced and shaped nearly all the music I’ve held in high regard over the last three decades.
Mould, whether as a member of Husker Du, Sugar or solo, showed me and the world that punk was something that could be great, sincere, thought provoking and not just the soundtrack of being pissed off, set to music played at breakneck speed.
The Bottleneck overflowed with greyhairs revisiting a celebrated time in their lives long gone and young bucks there to check out a rock underground icon that helped create “alternative music.” Drink in hand, scanning the room, my good friend Brian Fuhr summed up the age of the scene perfectly: “See man, punk’s not dead, it just goes to bed at a more reasonable hour now.”
The sticky floor (the bar’s management had re-vanished the old wood floors and they hadn’t yet dried thanks to the Midwest in August humidity) kept us grounded, keeping the drunk revelers upright for the show. The crowd was all smiles, ready to be blown away at top volume but first came local heroes The Pedaljets.
One-time kings of Lawrence music scene, The Pedaljets had been off the grid for years, playing sporadically here and there but they have returned with their first album in twenty years, the exceptional What’s In Between. The Pedaljets seemed ecstatic to be on the stage of their old haunt, more than happy to be back playing on a bill with Mould (the band toured with Husker Du in the early ‘80s) – and their brand of aggressive, sometimes sweet, a little angry rock ‘n’ roll was the perfect set up for Mould.
By the time Mould and his two-man rhythm section hit the stage (Jon Wurster of Superchunk/Mountain Goats and bassist Jason Narducy) the room was full, well lubricated and itchin’ to move. Mould took the stage with a smile and, immediately, tore into “The Act We Act” from Sugar’s Copper Blue. From there, the band and the crowd never let up. Mould dipped deep into his three-decade plus long catalog, playing everything with the spirit and vigor of a man much younger than his 52 years.
Whether playing “The Descent” and “Star Machine” from last year’s superb Silver Age, “If I Can’t Change Your Mind” or “Helpless” from his days with Sugar; or getting in the wayback machine for “Something I Learned Today” from Husker Du’s 1984 double record Zen Arcade, he was relentless, playing with power, lots of volume (a long time Bob M.O.), love and precision.
Mould gave the audience a show they would never forget, an hour and a half of their youth returned,, a night to look back on with a smile and a constant buzzing in my ear that is totally worth it. At half a century into a landmark life, he commanded the stage and kicked ass like cats half his age only wished they could. Bob Mould, you are my hero.